Abu Dhabi bans single-use plastics: How shoppers are embracing the change

Though the policy will be implemented in June, many residents are already bringing reusable bags to stores


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Thu 21 Apr 2022, 5:46 PM

Last updated: Thu 21 Apr 2022, 11:44 PM

With less than six weeks left until the ban on single-use plastics is implemented in Abu Dhabi, some shoppers have already embraced the change.

Many say they will bring their own reusable bags whenever they go shopping to support the government policy of protecting the environment. Major retailers and pharmacies, too, have stepped up measures in preparation of the new policy. They have promised to provide customers with reusable and environment-friendly bags as alternatives to plastics.

Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi authorities announced that single-use plastic bag will be banned from June. The decision was based on the Emirate's integrated single-use plastic policy that was introduced in 2020. It is part of the UAE's vision to enhance sustainable living in Abu Dhabi.

The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) said through the implementation of the policy, it plans to gradually reduce the amount of single-use plastic products consumed across Abu Dhabi and encourage the use of reusable products. EAD says it was planning to implement measures to reduce demand for about 16 single-use plastic products that include cups, stirrers, lids and cutlery.

Shoppers welcome new policy

Emirati shopper, Mohammad Matar, 45, says he’s so keen on protecting the environment and has been using reusable bags for shopping over the past five years. In the video below, he talks about why he uses eco-friendly bags while shopping:

“I am always carrying environment-friendly bags whenever I go to supermarkets for shopping, as it helps in reducing the single-use of plastic bags,” said Matar.

“Banning the single use of plastic bags is important and will help preserve our environment. It is a good thing that we all embrace the habit of carrying reusable bags whenever we go for shopping.”

Gladys Marie, a cashier at Lulu Hypermarket, Mushrif Mall, says many customers were bringing their own bags for shopping while others have started asking for environment-friendly reusable bags to pack their products.

"Many shoppers are asking for the reusable bags we provide here. I think this is good for the environment," she said.

Moreover, Marie says she has observed many customers already bringing their own bags to stores; watch below:

Egyptian expat, Taha Ahmed, 44, said he welcomes the new policy of banning single-use plastic bags, but expressed worry that reusable bags might be costly.

“It is good thing for authorities to ban the single-use of plastic bags because they pose danger to the environment,” said Ahmed, a project manager for an Abu Dhabi company.

“Me and my family are ready to use environment-friendly reusable bags for shopping. But my concern is that the supermarkets and other shops should provide them to shoppers at reasonable prices.”

Echoing similar sentiments, 46-year-old Biju Nair, an Indian expat, says plastics are a big threat to nature everywhere and any measure to reduce the single-use of plastic bags is always welcome.

“I believe big retailers or shops have many options for alternatives including paper bags, jute bags, cloth bags, extra for our convenience as shoppers,” said Nair. “We are ready to pay for the reusable bags as an alternative to plastic bags because we must all contribute to saving our environment.”

Filipino nanny Lyn Lyn says she always does the shopping for her employer, and she will be carrying the usable bags to the supermarkets.

“I am really concerned about the environment and the ban on the single-use of plastic bags is a good policy,” said Lyn.

“Carrying reusable bags for shopping is new among many residents but people will get used to it for the protection of the environment.”

Retailers to provide alternatives at reasonable prices

Big retailers and shops in Abu Dhabi said they are keen on supporting the government policy and were looking at alternatives to single-use of plastic bags, which are more sustainable and eco-friendly.

Some of the alternatives to single-use plastic bags are jute bags, biodegradable bags, new paper bags, recycled paper bags, cloth bags and starch-based bags.

“The whole idea of the new government policy is about reducing the single-use of plastic bags to conserve the environment,” said V. Nandakumar, director of marketing and communication at LuLu Group International.

“We have introduced two new varieties jute bags (cotton made) at Dh7.5 each and biodegradable bags throughout the LuLu outlets in Abu Dhabi and across the UAE as alternatives to the single-use of plastic bags.”

He noted that LuLu hypermarkets also rolled out good quality reusable bags, which are priced at Dh2.50 and they are replaceable free of cost if they get damaged. The UAE retailer will soon low-priced cloth bags which will cost Dh1 each.

“If the lifestyle and garments sections, we shall introduce paper bags. We shall also introduce corn starch biodegradable bags for the fruits and vegetables,” said Nandakumar.

LuLu Hypermarkets and supermarkets are also taking a conscious decision to educate shoppers about the importance of using reusable bags and need to protect the environment. This is through an awareness campaign about the need to use reusable and environment-friendly bags which will begin in May, and giving incentives such as reward points, discounts and separate counters to customers who bring their own bags for shopping.

“We are training our supervisors, cashiers and sales staff to introduce these new concepts of reusing environment-friendly bags to our customers. We are encouraging our customers to bring back their eco-friendly bags whenever they come for shopping,” said Nandakumar.

A spokesperson from Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society (ADCOOP) said as a locally grown brand wthatho operates 47 stores across the UAE, they have already provided jute bags as an alternative to plastic and have seen their customers make the move to reusable options when shopping.

“We will conduct training for our operations team to support our customers and will develop an awareness campaign to educate them about the changes and the options available,” said the official.

According to the ADCOOP spokesperson, the retailer will also be adding paper bags as an alternative to plastic at all check-outs in the coming weeks, and are planning some sales promotions for all reusable bags to encourage customers further.

Shopping malls vow to implement new measures

Loway Al Samarraie, Operations Manager - Deerfields Mall, said: “We wholly support the ban on single-use plastic bags and believe it’s a great step in the ongoing fight against climate change."

Al Samarraie expresses support for the initiative below:

"Regarding the ban on single-use plastic bags, we plan to raise as much awareness as possible across our social media, not only to ensure a smooth transition, but also so people can see our commitment to change and the benefits therein,” said Al Samarraie.

“Instead of offering single-use plastic bags, all our retailers will be introducing purchasable, reusable bags that mall-goers can use each time they visit. Deerfields Mall is at its heart a shopping centre focused on the community and we love nothing more than strengthening our relationships with our loyal customers. We hope they will join us on this journey to make the planet a more sustainable place.”

Bhupinder Singh, General Manager & CFO Dalma Mall, said: “Plastic bags, as we all know, are harmful to the environment as they are hard to decompose. The decision by Abu Dhabi authorities to ban single-use plastic bags will surely prompt residents and businesses to come up with feasible alternatives.

“Dalma Mall always whole heartedly support the government initiatives remaining committed to our social and environmental responsibilities. Dalma Mall will join to raise awareness on the hazards of plastic waste and help our community to become conscious and environmentally friendly."

Pharmacies prepared to embrace change

Roshan Abdul Hameed, Head of Retail at Burjeel Pharmacy, says their pharmacies have been providing zip covers and plastic carry bags to customers.

“As the authorities in Abu Dhabi announced the policy back in 2020 and the plan to phase out single-use plastic recently, we have started adopting the change in a phased manner,” said Hameed.

“We have already started using recycled paper covers and bags in some of our pharmacies. For this, we have tied up with a company producing recycled paper bags. These are made from used paper and are environment friendly.

Hameed discusses the bags the pharmacy is providing below:

Hameed says Burjeel Pharmacy also promotes reusable bags, as pharmacy visits don't happen too often like visits to other shopping centres.

“We will provide reusable bags that are specially designed in different sizes. Customers can keep these at home for more prolonged use and easily carry them whenever they visit pharmacies,” said the official.

To promote environment-friendly materials, Burjeel is also starting campaigns to create awareness among customers. “We will educate our customers on how a small step from us can make a significant change and help us in enhancing sustainable living in Abu Dhabi,” said Hameed.

He noted that switching from single-use plastic to reusable bags in pharmacies might not be a big challenge, as the change has already been initiated in a phased manner before the deadline.

“It is easy for the customers coming to buy medicines for chronic diseases to carry reusable bags. At the same time, over-the-counter medicine buyers won’t carry bags. So, we will provide recycled paper bags to them,” he added.


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